Friday 14 December 2012

Canada's schizophrenic Conservative government: Drunk drivers vs. "law-abiding" gun owners

(from the archives of "The Gun Control Yenta," March 12, 2010)

Why does it make sense to assume all shotgun and rifle owners are law-abiding citizens, but that everyone behind the wheel of a car is a drunk? Isn’t that the message behind the federal Justice department’s recent proposal to institute random roadside breathalyzer tests?
On one hand, the government, hiding behind the skirts of its latest sock puppet, sends Candice Hoeppner to pontificate: “Irrational government policy had to be challenged…The long-gun registry is a massive Liberal policy failure and it needs to end. It makes no sense to force law-abiding individuals with firearms licences to register their long-guns. It makes no sense to believe the registry will prevent a gun crime from taking place.”
But apparently it makes perfect sense to assume that all drivers are drunk. Memo to Justice Minister Nicholson: if a policy has the Western Standard saying “Harper government wants full-blown police state,” you have a problem on your hands—a “Houston-we-have-a-problem”-sized problem.
Minister Nicholson is said to approve of the random breathalyzer idea, while Mothers against Drunk Drivers Executive Director Andrew Murie does, too (by the way, aren’t there any actual mothers capable of executive directing that organization? Or is this an example of “the best woman for the job” being a man? I’m just asking).
Purchasing a gun must magically confer “law-abiding” status on an individual through some noble alchemy of lethal weapon possession. Meantime, the latest example of small town gun mayhem unfolds on our front pages: the sad murder of Ontario Provincial Police Constable Vu Pham, 37, allegedly by the late 70-year-old Fred Preston, former reeve of the Township of Joly, and lifelong resident of Sundridge ON. Const. Pham was a Vietnamese War survivor and father of three who also spent part of his youth in Sundridge. Current accounts suggest Mr. Preston may have gone off the deep end after his decades-long marriage broke up. Add a gun to the mix and voila: the perfect domestic violence storm. A “domestic violence call from what is reportedly the home of Mr. Preston’s estranged wife in Leadbury” preceded the shooting, according to The National Post, reporting that a man named John Driscoll resides at the home, since put under police guard. (Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has skedaddled!)
Tim Williams, an acquaintance of Mr. Preston, said, "I'm quite stunned at this news, given his personality."
But should anyone really be surprised? Anger and guns make a lethal cocktail.
Roughly 100,000 Canadian women and children annually take refuge in domestic violence shelters. How many of them live in homes with rifles or shotguns, remembering some 11 million such guns are in Canadian hands (and that 90 per cent of those hands are male)? How many Canadian women have been threatened with guns? How many of these guns are owned by “law-abiding” gun owners?
How long does it take to pull a trigger, anyway? That’s the amount of time it takes for a “law-abiding” gun owner to become a law-breaking one.
Here’s how the gun registry helps prevent crimes, including murder (I’m typing slowly so even the dullards among us will understand): knowing who has which guns allows the police to remove them as a preventative measure, should it become necessary. For example, in this case, if Mr. Preston’s estranged wife had been threatened by him and reported this to the police, they could have removed the guns from Mr. Preston’s possession. ALL his guns, which wouldn’t be possible if he hasn’t listed them with the registry. 
Why do critics of the long gun registry persistently ignore this simple truth? Enforcing the registry DOES prevent crime. Since its creation, close to 23,000 firearms licenses have been refused or revoked because of just this kind of public safety concern. And it only costs $3 million a year to maintain, despite gun lobby bluster.
For years now this “tough on crime” government has encouraged the flouting of the Firearms Act—still law in this land, despite their efforts to ignore it. They instituted an “amnesty” for those who failed to renew their gun licenses and waived or refunded licensing fees, over $120 million-worth. Far from being “tough on crime,” they actually facilitate law-breaking!
Canada's Supreme Court has ruled, “The registration provisions cannot be severed from the rest of the Act. The licensing provisions require everyone who possesses a gun to be licensed; the registration provisions require all guns to be registered. These portions of the Firearms Act are both tightly linked to Parliament’s goal of promoting safety by reducing the misuse of any and all firearms. Both portions are integral and necessary to the operation of the scheme.” 
Const. Pham’s shooting is a tragedy--for his family, his community, for us all, as is the death of Mr. Preston. But just imagine how much more danger our cops will be in when they pull us over to sample our breath if our gun laws are even further eroded.

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